FORT STOCKTON, Texas (KTSM) – Canutillo suffered a 21-18 loss to Abilene Wylie in the Class 5A Division II Regional Semifinals in Fort Stockton, Texas on Saturday.

Canutillo was so close to punching their ticket to the State Quarterfinals for the first time since 2014, but special team errors costed the Eagles down the line.

Canutillo was punched right in the face to start the game. On Wylie’s third play of the game, running back Landry Carlton broke out for a long touchdown run to give Wylie the first score of the game. After that big play, the Canutillo defense stepped up and returned to good form, not allowing the Wylie offense to get another score.

Meanwhile, Canutillo’s offense got two touchdowns of their own, both of them from running back LJ Martin. Canutillo would walk into halftime with a 12-6 lead.

In the second half, Wylie had a huge play to get them back the lead. A Canutillo punt was blocked, and Wylie would take advantage of it and score a few plays later to take a 13-12 lead.

With 1:38 left in the third quarter, Canutillo kept on going to the run game. LJ Martin tacked on another touchdown, his third of the game, to secure the lead. Canutillo went for a 2-point conversion but couldn’t convert as the Eagles fumbled the ball and it was returned by the Wylie defense for two points. Canutillo still retained an 18-15 lead after that.

With 8:21 left in the game, Wylie quarterback KJ Long found the endzone on a 10-yard run to give Wylie a 21-18 lead.

Canutillo’s first drive after they fell behind ended in a turnover on downs. Canutillo’s defense did manage to get their offense back the ball with 1:48 left in the game. Canutillo couldn’t make anything out of it though as time expired.

Canutillo saw their season come to an end as they fell 21-18 to Wylie in the Class 5A Division II Regional Semifinals.

Despite it not being the result Canutillo wanted, the program still had a lot to be proud of.

“We had our chances. You cannot complain about our kids’ effort,” Canutillo head coach Scott Brooks said. “They went toe-to-toe with someone they probably should not have been with. They outsized us and I thought our kids did a great job.”

“We couldn’t play any better. We played our hearts out. Coach [Scott Brooks] put us in the best position we could’ve been it is just we didn’t come out on top.” Canutillo senior linebacker Jesus Carrillo.

“We really overachieved. To be honest, my expectations were not really high with this team,” Canutillo senior running back LJ Martin said. “Maybe second round best, but we came out and won last week, had a great opportunity to win it in this one. We couldn’t close it out, but I am very pleased.”

Saturday also marked the last high school football game LJ Martin will play in. Martin, a Stanford commit, went out with a bang. Martin recorded more than 200 rushing yards and collected three total touchdowns.

“He is just a unique individual, a leader, treats every kid on the team like you’d never know walking down the hall at school that LJ is a division one recruit. He is just a normal kid going to his classes.” Brooks said.

Martin is part of a talented senior class at Canutillo that made it to the Sweet 16 round twice. For the rest of the Eagles, who are returning for 2023, they will aim to make it back to the Regional Semifinals for a third year in a row.

Canutillo finished their season 10-3, 5-0 District 1-5A DII.